Memories of the year that was, hopes for the year to come

Looking backwards before glimpsing forward, the two highlights of the Australian dance year were the season of the Paris Opera Ballet in Sydney and the performance of The Bright Stream by the Bolshoi Ballet in Brisbane.

The POB season offered a rare chance to see many stars of the company in a season of Giselle that for me was one of the best ever interpretations, if not the best, of the ballet created in Paris 172 years ago.

The opening night cast of Dorothée Gilbert as Giselle, Mathieu Ganio as Albrecht and Marie-Agnès Gillot as Myrthe was superb. The principals and soloists in each cast change were equally impressive and each brought their own individuality to their interpretations.

The stage at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney is an ideal space for dance. What a pity that it will be unavailable for much of next year, due to an anticipated long run of The Lion King.

Alexei Ratmansky’s Cinderella, choreographed for the Australian Ballet, really should have been staged in that theatre rather than the small stage of the Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House. I saw Cinderella at its premiere at the State Theatre in Melbourne where the intriguing surrealist sets and ample space allowed the full beauty of the production to be seen.

Cinderella was undoubtedly the highlight of the Australian Ballet’s year and a ballet that showcased the whole company with the most memorable performances, as the Prince, given by Daniel Gaudiello and David Hallberg. Dancing with Gaudiello, Leanne Stojmenov was a perky and resolute Cinders while Amber Scott, brought a touch more pathos to the role. A few audiences were lucky enough to see the empathetic partnership of Scott and Hallberg.

In 2013, we said goodbye to two AB principals, Olivia Bell and Yosvani Ramos while Ty King-Wall and Chengwu Guo joined the ranks of the principals – although it’s been a while since any of the female dancers were promoted to that level.

The most exhilarating night in the theatre in 2013 came with the guest performances in Don Quixote of the Russian superstars, Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev. Along with Hallberg’s guest performances in Cinderella, they added much glamour to a company that operates on democratic principles when it comes to the promotion of various artists.

Only five months after the appalling attack on Sergei Filin, artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet, the company took up residence at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre for a long season of Le Corsaire and a short season of Alexei Ratmansky’s The Bright Stream.

Despite the complexity of the story, (you had to read the synopsis at least twice), The Bright Stream was charming, and luscious in its settings. Danced to Shostakovich’s score it demonstrated Ratmansky’s sense of fun and his commitment to honouring Russian dance history.

At the Queensland Ballet, artistic director Li Cunxin and his wife, Mary Li, are pushing the company to a new place in the Australian arts scene and in doing so, are mining box office gold. Their biggest year is yet to come, with the first production in Australia of Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo & Juliet in 2014. More of that later.

At Sydney Dance Company, Alexander Ekman’s Cacti was the laugh out loud winner of the year, while Larissa McGowan’s Fanatic was a close second. I want to see more of McGowan’s work.

In a new venture, SDC moved into the Studio at the Sydney Opera House and thrilled the audience with the up close view of the dancers on a catwalk in Les Illuminations.

Akram Khan’s company brought iTMOi to the Opera House as well, and of all the dance works staged by the house itself, it was the most satisfying in many years although Nederlands Dans Theater’s season of four works – including the outstanding Sarabande by Jiri Kylian, and Sylvie Guillem in 6000 Miles Away were close behind it.

I regret that I didn’t get the chance to see Expressions Dance Company, Australian Dance Theatre, the West Australian Ballet or Bangarra Dance Theatre this year but hope to in 2014.

In a final sad note to 2013, the dance world mourned the deaths of three strong women whose passion helped shape Australian dance history, Strelsa Heckelman, Laurel Martyn and Anna Volkova,

The first major dance (and song) show of the new year is the headline attraction of the Sydney Festival, Sasha Waltz’s Dido & Aeneas, partly danced underwater in a glass tank. Waltz has a fascination for bodies in the water, an image that also began her Korper which premiered at the Schaubühne in Berlin in 2000. Dido & Aeneas also premiered in Berlin, in 2005.

Queensland Ballet is ramping up the glamour factor with three guest artists who will dance on separate nights in Romeo & Juliet in July.

This might be the last chance for those in Australia to see Carlos Acosta dance as he has forecast the end of his dancing career in the not so distant future.

Acosta will dance as Romeo, a role that will be shared with Steven McRae, the Australian-born principal of the Royal Ballet.

Tamara Rojo, artistic director of the English National Ballet and a former Royal Ballet principal, will dance as Juliet, with each of these three guests dancing with principals of the Queensland Ballet.

I’m leading a short Renaissance Tour group to see Acosta and McRae on June 4-6.

The Australian Ballet will present only one new work next year, an (as yet) untitled one act ballet by resident choreographer, Stephen Baynes. It will form part of Chroma, a mixed bill in Sydney in April-May and in Melbourne in June. The bill will also introduce Australian audiences to Wayne McGregor’s work of the same name along with Jiri Kylian’s Petite Mort and Sechs Tanze. The former was last seen in Australia during a visit of Nederlands Dans Theater in the 1990s at the Melbourne Festival.

The AB’s first ballet of the year is Manon, touring Brisbane, followed by Melbourne and Sydney seasons. The company first staged Manon 20 years ago and next year’s season will offer a new generation of principals the chance to shine in the complex and technically demanding roles of the courtesan, Manon and her lover, Des Grieux.

The company will also present Stanton Welch’s production of La Bayadere (in both Melbourne and Sydney).

The splashiest opening night of the year is likely to be the premiere of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical, at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre on April 12, with previews starting from March 25. The choreographer is John O’Connell.

More for the diary.

Sydney Dance Company is touring a triple bill, Interplay, to Sydney (March 15-April 5), Canberra (April 10-12) and Melbourne (April 30-May 10). The two new works are by Rafael Bonachela and Gideon Obarzanek while Jacopo Godani’s 2011 work, Raw Models, completes the bill.

SDC’s next new work, in spring, is Louder Than Words, comprising two pieces, one by Bonachela, the other by the Greek choreographer, Andonis Foniadakis.

Australian Dance Theatre, 50 years old in 2015, will next year begin to develop a major new work, The Beginning of Nature, to mark the half-century. Collaborators include the Australian video artist, Lynnette Wallworth, and Professor Tim Flannery.

ADT will premiere Multiverse in Adelaide in July 2014 and take its work, Proximity on a European tour.

At the Queensland Ballet, I’m looking forward not only to R&J but also to Greg Horsman’s production of Coppelia and the mixed program, Flourish, that includes Balanchine’s Serenade, Nils Christe’s Short Dialogues, Nicolo Fonte’s Bolero, and the classical pas de deux from La Esmeralda.

Bangarra Dance Theatre has announced that Patyegarang, choreographed by Stephen Page, will embark on a national tour next year, beginning in Sydney in June and then moving to Canberra, Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne.

Page’s new work tells the story of a young woman who shared her knowledge and language with the colonist, Lieutenant William Dawes, an astronomer, mathematician and linguist.

Queensland Performing Arts Centre’s international ballet series continues next year with the American Ballet Theatre season from 28 August to 7 September. The season starts with Kevin McKenzie’s production of Swan Lake followed by a triple bill of Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free, Twyla Tharp’s Bach Partita and Alexei Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas.

From 4-7 September I’ll be leading a Renaissance Tour group to Brisbane to see the last night of Swan Lake and then the performances of Steven McRae and Carlos Acosta performance as Romeo in Romeo & Juliet.

Details of this tour and the Queensland Ballet tour can be found on Renaissance Tours’ website,

Finally, Natalie Weir is adapting the 1948 film The Red Shoes, that promises to blend “impressionist art and expressionist dance, drawing equally on the avant-garde and the classical in an onstage romantic fantasy”.

The promotional line: “Time rushes by, love rushes by, life rushes by, but the Red Shoes go on…”

Happy New Year and thank you to all the readers of dancelines, and thanks especially for your comments and messages over the last year.